This is my niece, Katie Gwen, named so after her Mom, my sister Charlotte Gwen. Katie is my only niece. My late husband, Katie's Uncle Terry, from her early childhood had always called her 'Blond Bombshell'. When he first started calling her that, she was so young she didn't even know what it meant! Katie was the apple of her Uncle Terry's eye.
Katie has always had an independent spirit. At the age of 15, she wanted to do a summer missionary trip to El Salvador. She would be there for 30 days with a group of young people she had never met. In order to participate, she took charge of raising her own money to finance the trip. It has been a few years and my brain isn't as good as it once was, but I believe she had to raise $3,000. She did it, but none of us doubted she could or would. Katie did what ever Katie set her mind to do!
She boarded a plane at Memphis International Airport and flew to Atlanta, where she changed planes and continued to Miami. Once in Miami, she met up with the group she would be traveling to El Salvador with. She had never flown and knew nothing about it, but showed absolutely no fear at the prospect. Now, I know part of that is simply the folly of youth. But, I also know Katie, and it was pure faith in the fact that she was doing what she knew the Lord wanted her to do and so, everything would be okay.
My nephew-by-heart, Brian
She was in El Salvador on her 16th birthday. She celebrated with a group of new-found friends and with a sense of accomplishment she had not yet known. It was an experience that settled for her a commitment within herself for her future. She knew she must do something in a mission field. She came home from El Salvador determined to do more missionary work whenever and wherever the Lord provided the opportunity.
Upon graduation from high school, she enrolled in the program from Teen Mania Ministries from Garden Valley, TX. She turned 18 a few days before she left for Garden Valley. While there, she worked with the ministry and participated in activities that grew her up spiritually. She traveled with a Christian band for a month. She spent a month in the outback of Australia on a missionary trip. She worked in the Ministries' Phone Bank making recruiting calls to help finance the missionary trips required of each young person while in the program.
Brian & Katie, 2004
It is a co-ed program, but no dating is allowed among the participants. While there, Katie met Brian. They became wonderful friends and Brian took care of Katie. Because he was from Middle Tennessee, they often traveled together on trips back and forth home. During one particular Christmas break, Brian was going to drive Katie's car and they were going to come home for Christmas. A winter storm dropped several inches of snow and ice on the area they were to travel through. What was usually an 8-10 hour trip turned into a nearly 24 hour trip. But Brian got Katie home to us safely and got her back to Texas just as safely.
Brian & Katie, 2008
My great-niece, Alix Joy (8 yrs. old)
I traveled to Texas with my sister's family to attend Katie's graduation services from her year's internship with the Ministry. While there, we met Brian and his family and actually met them for breakfast on the morning we were to return home. Immediately, I knew Brian would be Katie's life long mate. You could see it between them when they were together. I made the trip home with no doubt Brian and Katie would end up married at some point in the future. Just as I had known would happen, Brian and Katie were married on June 10, 2000.
My great-nephew, Jaden Isaac (6 yrs. old)
They are so good together and have two wonderful children, Alix Joy and Jaden Isaac. These are the precious souls who have so lovingly taken care of me for the this time I have been in Iowa and will continue to do so until I go home. I cannot express what a blessing these precious loved ones have been to me.
Brian in Iraq, 2005
Although Brian has been unable to be here due to his military responsibilities (he is in Des Moines for training related to his status as an Army Medic in the Iowa National Guard), Katie and the kids have just taken me right in and made me feel like one of their family. I have felt welcome and have made myself at home. I've gotten closer to the kids, which thrills me beyond any word I can think of to describe it!
Katie, Brian, Alix and Jaden---2008
The loss of my husband has been so hard, but having this time with my family has made it all so much better. A break from the day-to-day and an opportunity to come to see where they now live and get to know some of their friends and see their community has been wonderful. I pray that someday I am able to give back to them in some way that would express how much this time has meant to me. Somehow, I doubt I ever will.
I love you Katie, Brian, Alix and Jaden. You will never, ever know how much I love each of you and how thankful I am for you in my life.